*Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo *
It's great to see everybody. I appreciate everyone coming out and taking the time to come out. As we wind down here I've been very, very pleased with how our offense has gotten better each day. There's been some areas of improvement. There's been some areas where I think we need to continue to improve. We started fast today which was good to see. That's what you want. You want to start practice fast because that's how you want to start the games. You want to start the games fast and focused and dialed in. I was pleased that we did that more so today than other days. We got a long way to go. A lot of improvements still need to be made but I'm very, very pleased with where we're at.
Q: When Kirk has a rough stretch with a couple interceptions, what do you do?
A: We'll go over it. One of the main things you need to play quarterback in the National Football League is short term memory. If you don't have that it's going to be really, really hard to move on from it to the next play. In the headset I was just telling him, "Next play, next play". We're going to go through rough stretches at some point in this season. There's going to be an interception. There's going to be a couple three-and-outs in a row. That's real life football. I think it's great that you saw him have a really good red zone period the first time down there and a not so hot red zone period the next time down there and then came back on the third and seven and made a nice completion. Short term memory is key for Kirk and all of our quarterbacks.
Q: Do you use the headset for anything other than set plays?
A: I keep it as game like as I can because during the season they cut it off at 15 seconds. I won't talk past 15 seconds on the play clock because my eyes go straight to the play clock as well as soon as those guys break the huddle. I'll give him some reminders though. I'll be, "Hey remember to back over the ball here, remind the back he's got to half back wide here. Hey, two on one here". There's a lot of subtle reminders I give him. The other thing is when he's calling the play and playing the play through his mind before he gets the ball, he doesn't need to hear me playing in his head too much.
Q: What have you seen from Trevor Siemian?
A: I think he's done a really good job. In that second huddle he's done a really good job. The thing that we're doing with Trevor is we're continuously preaching on him just to speed up a little bit. His accuracy has been very, very good. I mean very good. He's put the ball, especially when he's throwing it outside the numbers he's been tremendously accurate all spring. We need him to continue to do that and then we just need him to continue, as he gets to know the offense even better, better, and better, just to operate that second huddle just a little bit faster.
Q: How does his arm look after offseason surgery?
A: There's no doubt. He threw a couple today that jumped right off his hand and yes, he's played well. He's played very, very well. I'm very pleased with Trevor.
Q: What do you mean by telling Siemian to speed it up?
A: Part of that it's not Trevor, it's learning a new offense. You're getting acclimated. You're in this place for the first time and all those things. It's gotten better as we've gone along. We're always working on that with all of our quarterbacks and I'm always working on this on myself on speeding up the play calls and making sure I'm getting the plays in on time as well.
Q: How is he handling being the backup?
A: if you're a guy of Trevor's character I think it's pretty easy because he's all in on supporting Kirk [Cousins] and doing anything that Kirk needs him, in terms of helping him out in the quarterback room every day. If you're with a player not of that character it may become an issue. As a coaching staff it's very settling for us that we have a backup quarterback that has started games and won games in this league. I think for both parties involved it's been a very, very mutual, beneficial relationship.
Q: Coach Mike Zimmer said the transition between offensive coordinators has been seamless. What are your impressions?
A: I appreciate coach saying that and I take a lot of pride in trying to make this offense look how coach wants it to look and spend a lot of time doing that. The fact that he said that means a lot to me. Coach and I have a tremendous relationship. We enjoy talking football. We're both football junkies. They ran through us on a RPO a couple practices ago. We made a blocking adjustment and went over there and talked about it. He and I have very open dialogue and great football conversation.
Q: What is the biggest aspect to getting Kirk Cousins acclimated?
A: I think when you just see him operate fast. He did a few things out there today that unless you knew he did, you would have no idea he did – in terms of change in the protection, in terms of using a unique cadence that helps us identify the defensive front, the defensive coverage, all those things. The blitz period. The defense was bringing the heat pretty good today. He did some subtle things that tells you he's really understanding the little intricacies of what we're trying to accomplish.
Q: What have been your first impressions of Rashod Hill?
A: He's doing a great job. He's doing a great job stepping in there. He's doing a really nice job in the pass game. In the run game he's continuing to make progress, so Tony [Sparano] does a great job with those guys.
Q: What stands out to you about Adam Thielen's route running?
A: He's just meticulous. He takes a lot of pride in it. You see him on tape. When you watch the practice film you see him try to set up defenders with his eyes, with his shoulders, with his lower body. He really understands the art of leverage and the art of route running. When you have a player who is that gifted and that talented that not only understands what to do, but how to do it – that's why he's a special player.
*Q: So many have used the words fun and exciting to describe playing in your system. What makes it that way? *
A: You'd have to ask them. You have to ask them. I'll tell you I think if you came into our installation meeting it's very serious, but at the same time there's a lot of juice from both the players and coaches. I think that the players enjoy the different types of routes that we're running, the concepts. They're seeing themselves get better which is always a positive. You're going to have ask those guys that, but we're always trying to keep it as solid and tight as we can.
Q: What have you seen from Brandon Zylstra?
A: Well, he made a heck of a catch on the left sideline today. That guy continue to impress, he continues to impress. The more that he starts to understand the speed of the NFL game, he's a big strong guy. People are going to have a hard time getting up in his face and pressing him. He has tremendous hands, he's smart. He's one of the guys that can line up anywhere, we could put him at any position. We're very fortunate he's on our football team.
Q: What is your impression of Dalvin Cook?
A: Every day he's getting better. Every day he's getting better. He's a really impressive guy. Impressive person, impressive player, quick, assignment sound, sees the hole. I think as you've seen him get more reps these last few days, I think you're really starting to see his vision come back to what you saw the first three weeks of last season. I think he would say the same thing, that he's starting to get some of his vision back from the backfield.
Q: Is that instinctive?
A: I think it is, it is. It's like anything, playing quarterback you throw to open spots. It's like anything, you need to read the hole, feel the three-technique, see through the three-technique to the backer, all those things. So, I think he's starting to get that back and starting to recognize the holes again, you saw a couple really nice runs today.
*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
Great day to be out here today. Great weather, good day to come out here and compete. Guys have done a good job here through the midway point of mandatory minicamp and hopefully we can get better tomorrow and continue on as we keep progressing.
Q: With someone like Eric Kendricks, how do you see him continue to develop from year to year and what do you see from him right now?
A: I think right now he is very comfortable with the calls and communications and everything that we've asked him to learn over the course of it. He has had really good recall. I think is cutting down on his reaction time and not having to think as much and getting lined up and really going out and executing.
Q: What are you seeing from Danielle Hunter this offseason and where does he need to go next?
A: I think the one thing Danielle has done, his work ethic is undeniably one of the best we've been around. I think he has added some more tools to his toolbox as far as his rush. He is out here going against Riley [Reiff] every day and that is tough enough. I'll tell you what, he's really done a good job of working different techniques, different fundamentals, really working on his pass rush craft. We look forward to keep transferring that over as we keep going through the offseason.
Q: How do you feel like Danielle's pass rush was last season?
A: Anytime good pass rush and good coverage go hand in hand. If our guys can get the quarterback off the spot or make him feel uncomfortable or have to step up, where his footwork is not as good as he goes to release the ball, that is a plus for us and we look at it that way. Again, the thing you see with Danielle, he is affecting the passer. The big thing is making him have to move, feeling coming off the edge, not being selfish and running past. He's exhibited those things throughout the preseason.
Q: What is it like to see Terence Newman at 40 throwing someone else's jersey on and heading out to play some safety?
A: We played him at safety the last couple days. He did his rendition of [Andrew] Sendejo today. They swapped jerseys. Terence has done a good job. His versatility in the secondary, everybody knows about it. He's had to start games for us with two days of preparation to do it. That is a hat that he can wear. We are glad we got him.
Q: Is that something in the meeting rooms where Terence Newman knows all the positions so well that he can have input there?
A: Yes, it is a credit to him. Systematically, he's been in this system for quite a while. We've asked him to always be paying attention to everything. That way, you have to have that versatility in that room if somebody gets injured or something like that, the next guy has to be up. He's very indicative of that example, especially for our young guys with the more that you can do, the longer you are going to stick around and help us win football games.
Q: Have you ever considered signing safety Eric Reid?
A: I can't answer those questions. Rick [Spielman] and his squad handles that. For us, whoever is here we are going to coach the heck out of them and get them ready to go.
*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *
One more day to go and then, obviously, waiting for training camp. About this time of the year my wife looks at me and says, 'How much time do you have off?'. Then it's about two weeks left before training camp and I'll be wondering, 'Okay, what are we doing today? What are we doing? What's next on the agenda?' She'll say, 'It's about time to go to training camp, isn't it?' It's always fun, look forward to this time of the year, get a little time to spend with the family and then get back to football.
Q: How is the kicker competition going?
A: It's been very close. Daniel showed how talented he is, he's got a big leg. He's done a great job with the kickoffs, obviously. More than likely, I think he should have made a few more of those field goals. He's made, I think, 16-of-19 in team, which is not bad. Kai has had one of the better springs, or the best spring he's had since he's been here. He's actually done quite well on kickoffs as well. It's been a very good competition so far.
Q: Do you envision this going into training camp?
A: I don't make that final decision. I've put my two cents in in the personnel meetings. I'll let Rick [Spielman] and Coach Zimmer take care of it from there. It's been a good competition so far.
Q: So Daniel Carlson is 16-of-19?
A: He's 16-of-19 in the team periods and I want to say Kai is 14-of-18 maybe, 13-of-18, somewhere around there. It's close. They both missed a couple they should have made. Every day is a growing process. I know Daniel is working on some technique things we've changed since he came from Auburn. He's done a nice job embracing that. He's very coachable, smart, understands his craft. Like any smart guy, like Kai is real smart too. You've got to make sure they don't overthink stuff. When you overthink things, that's when you take that to the team period. Which I think that's what we've done so far this spring. When we've missed them, we've overthought some things that we shouldn't have to overthink at this team of the year.
Q: Will Mike Hughes compete with Marcus Sherels for kickoff returner?
A: I think they're both going to compete for both. I think you need to have at least two guys back there competing. The great thing with the new rules, you could put Marcus back there, you could put Mike back there, you could put CJ Ham back there. You're going to need three guys that can actually catch a football, field a football. Because of the new rules they're going to try to spray the ball all over the place and keep you off balance. If you put some big guys back there they're going to kick it right to them. Those are the things we're playing around with in kickoff and kickoff return and embracing the new rules. Obviously, I think it's a great thing the NFL did by keeping the play around. Because it is new, it's going to be kind of exciting to see how it pans out.
Q: What are the areas in Mike Hughes game that you're trying to work on?
A: The kickoffs, he's very natural catching the ball, obviously it's a much easier ball to catch than end over end type kicks. Punts, he's come a long way since rookie minicamp. He's never really been taught how to track a punt, how to catch a punt. We do a lot of film work, a lot of close up film work that we go over with Mike and all our returners for that matter, to try to hone those skills. He's done a really nice job. He's come a long way. He's a great athlete, a fast learner, the sky is the limit for Mike. I think he's going to be a very good returner on both punts and kickoffs.
Q: How difficult is it to learn how to track a punt?
A: Mike did it in college too, he was very successful at it. A lot of time those college coaches, like I've said before, they do so much with recruiting that they don't have as much time to spend with those returners on the finer points of being a great returner. In terms of tracking, we always talk about get to the point where you think the ball is going to land and then move your feet and adjust. It's all body position, where your feet are, how tall you're standing, a little bit of knee bend, where your elbows are, where your finger tips are, where your eyes are while you're tracking the ball. We talk about that stuff all the time. Hopefully, at least like any other skill, you work it in practice and then you go out and hope they don't think about it while the ball is in the air, they just go react. That's kind of the point we're trying to get to with Mike and he's really come a long way.* *
Q: Do you think Daniel Carlson's range extends to 60 and beyond like he claims?
A: The only problem with kicking from 60 yards is you know you're going to have to cover it. Because at the end of the half is probably the only time you're going to kick it, or at the end of the game for a game-winner or to tie. But if you have a returner back there now we have to cover with a bunch of big guys, I don't like that situation a lot. I think Daniel and Kai does too, they're both very strong legged guys. Kai is much stronger than people give him credit for. From 60, that might be the max. Coach Zimmer might say something different unless we've got a nice tail wind behind us playing in Chicago or Green Bay. He does have a big leg. The thing Daniel does a great job, he did it in college, we talk about having great timing and great elevation on the kicks. His timing is getting much better, much better get-off time, between 1.27 and 1.31 seconds. He's getting into that window right now. His elevation has always been really good and he continues to improve there as well.
Q: Has he kicked in U.S. Bank Stadium yet?
A: Yes, one time. We got him in there and we're going to get him in there during training camp because we're right here, we're not down in Mankato, which is nice. We'll get him in there one more time and then we'll go with the preseason from there.
Q: Do you expect there to be more kickoff returns with the rule changes?
A: It's going to be exciting. I don't know. I'm not really into predications anyway, I'm normally wrong when I predict things. I think it's going to be fun to adjust and see what people are doing and watch what other teams are doing on tape and studying them. We've got our ideas and how we think the play is going to go. I just hope to take advantage of it. I told our guys, we want to be the first team to score a touchdown with the new rules. I don't know if that will happen. I certainly don't want to be the first team to give up a touchdown. Hopefully we'll keep working hard and have a good talented return team back there and see what happens.
Q: How does it change your approach as a coach?
A: Like any change that we've had or any of the rules changes over the years in the years I've been in the NFL, I think number one you need to embrace them, you've got to be positive about them. The way you approach them with your players is you've got to be positive about the change. Understand why they're doing it, to make a safer game, which I think is great. I think a lot of you guys know, I was part of that committee up in New York City that proposed that to the NFL and the competition committee. They went through with it and our owners passed it, which is a great thing. I think it's fun, it's like you're tinkering with a new toy. You get new players, new resources and guys that you can use to help us win. I think you've got to do the same thing with the rules and the rule changes. Try to change quicker than any of the other teams and hopefully we'll use that to our advantage and help us win a bunch of games this year.
Q: Do you put a greater emphasis on the 33-yard distance with Daniel Carlson because of the longer extra point?
A: No, I don't think you want him to change anything that he's doing because he does have such a great leg. But you put him in those situations, so any time we work on field goals, like tomorrow we'll work on field goals again second time this week we worked on it yesterday, we put him in that situation. Middle of the field, 15-yard line, treat it like a 33-yard field goal but in all actuality it's a PAT. I think the mentality has to be the same as it was in college. He wants it right down the middle, a lot of guys like the hash but he wants it right down the middle. We've just got to approach it the same way he always has.
Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
Q: How much further along do you think you are now compared to the start of the offseason in mid-April?
A: I don't know what the scale is to measure by, but I do think we've made a lot of ground up and had a lot of progress each day and each period. Even today during a walk-through period I turned around at the end when they blew the horn and looked at the coach and said, "I just got better right there." Just walking through those mental reps, getting the muscle memory built in has helped. Just keep stacking a brick up every day and believe that by the end of August or early September we'll be where we need to be.
Q: How do you evaluate your practice today?
A: Third downs in the red zone were the emphasis of that period, and they're going to be a big emphasis for us all season. Our backs are against the wall a little bit, but on the first one I just couldn't get all the way through the throw, so the ball died on me. The second one I was testing things a little bit and trying to see what I could get away with, and I learned pretty quickly that I can't get away with that throw. Some of the beauty of OTA's is that you can test and experiment, you can try things without the ramifications that you would have during the season. You just got to learn from them and use them and bank those reps so that come the season you're making good decisions in those critical situations.
Q: Do you build and move forward from mistakes?
A: I think right now I was pretty salty walking off the field, I'm really frustrated. I do not want to walk into the summer with a bad taste in my mouth about practice, so hopefully we can finish really strong tomorrow and be feeling good going in to the summer. Even one bad decision in practice kind of bothers me all afternoon and I can be a bit of a grouch when I go home, so that one bothered me. Adam [Thielen] was frustrated with a couple of plays himself, he was just sitting at his locker pouting with me. We had a little pity party just now before I came out here.
Q: Off the field, how are you getting adjusted and acclimated to Minnesota?
A: We're getting acclimated. We've really enjoyed that process. We were in a hotel for a few weeks, and now we just bought a home and moved in this past weekend. My wife was commenting as we drove by the Mall of America that we kind of miss our hotel over there, that was kind of fun. Everything has been fun, and we're looking forward to continuing to get to know people and getting settled, although I found out that the school district we're in, I mean we're a few years away, but the school district we're in, the high school [football helmet] looks just like the University of Michigan's. That might be an issue coming up in the future. Hopefully I play long enough and well enough that we stay here and we have that dilemma in the future, we'll see.
Q: When you get away for the summer break before training camp, how do you spend your time?
A: It's a balance for me, and I've had to learn this after playing the last few years. Last year we got to like Week Two, and because of how much I was grinding all camp and even in the summer, I felt like we were in Week 12. I couldn't believe that we were only in Week Two because I had treated July and August like it was game day. You have to pace yourself a little bit. Because I feel a little behind the eight ball and am learning the offense, I do need to be in it every day, but there also needs to be a healthy balance of getting away, catching your breath, and getting a change of scenery, knowing that when we come back at the end of July we still have six more weeks before week one. I'm trying to find that balance, getting better at it each year, but to answer your question, I'll definitely get away, relax, and also just stay in it every day for a few minutes so I don't lose what I've gained.
Q: What has your experience working with Trevor Siemian been like so far?
A: I've really enjoyed working with Trevor. It's a blessing to have a quarterback in your room who's started 25-plus games, that's not very common. He speaks from experience of having been there, having succeeded and having failed, and that means a great deal to me knowing that every day in the meeting room and on the sideline during games he can speak from a place of experience. He has a demeanor and disposition about him that's a joy to be around. He's positive, easygoing, and very smart, so I enjoy working with him.
Q: What's the process of getting on the same page with offensive linemen for pass protections like?
A: That's one of the many areas of development, and it's been tough not having Pat Elflein out here every day because you want to build the rapport with the guy you expect to be there. But Nick [Easton], for being the replacement for Pat, is doing a phenomenal job, and he's really smart. Sometimes he's too sharp where I got to slow him down and say, "Hey, you audibled, and I didn't even know it because you're so on top of it and you're a step ahead of me with making the checks." I got to know too, I can't be a step behind. It's been good working with him, but I got to keep up with him. He's a Harvard guy, so a Michigan State guy is usually a step behind, so I got to stay caught up. It's been fun having players that are that sharp, Riley Reiff and veterans who have been around the block. Just trying to continue to make sure I get rid of the ball quickly and don't make their job any harder than it already is.
Q: Do you spend time with Pat Elflein otherwise, working on some of the same stuff?
A: Well Pat's locker is two or three down from mine, so many times we'll debrief after practice, or in the morning I'll say that this came up yesterday and ask what you would have done in that situation that we talked about after practice. We catch up with each other now and then, but I'm sure that when he gets healthy and is back at camp there will be a lot of catching up to do because we haven't been getting those reps together every day.
Q: You beat Ohio State while at Michigan State, is that okay with him?
A: Well we won my senior year, we didn't beat them every year, but I think he came in the year I left, so we're pretty much safe. We were different eras, which makes you feel old a little bit, but that's okay.
Q: There was a point during practice where you and Adam Thielen stepped aside, and you were showing him some things. Is that just part of the process of a quarterback and wide receiver, trying to understand what you're looking for from him?
A: Yeah, it is a process of saying, "hey, this is the way I've done if for six years. You've done it a different way for five years. Let's try to talk about why you've had success, why I've had success. Let's find some middle ground, let's decide whether I'm going to learn your way, you're going to learn my way." That's the process I'm talking about. Every route, every concept, really we could talk about each individual one. The best part of the whole thing is you know you have a chance when the communication is as healthy as it is. He's receptive to listening, I can understand what he's getting at. It's the same with Stef [Stefon Diggs]. That's where when I say I'm really excited about the locker room and the players I work with, it's moments like that where I feel really good about the communication, that they're hearing you and you're hearing them.
Q: As you've gotten older, how have you learned to deal with the outside noise and expectations?
A: I don't know that you think about it a whole lot. That's probably the best way, ignorance is bliss. I just try to ignore the noise and not even know what's going on or being said. That's usually the best route. I know what I'm being coached to do, I know what I have to do, so I don't need the outside to tell me because I have accountability here and I'm hard on myself. I'll always be aware of where I need to play better, and sometimes maybe that I'm not playing well enough, but I know on the inside with what I'm being coached to do I'm actually doing exactly what I'm being asked to do. Other times I know when we've won in games I've played, I didn't play very well, but everybody's patting me on the back because to the outside it looks like I did the right thing, and I know deep down that I'm not where I need to be yet. I just got to continue to listen to people and hear and know what they're talking about each and every play, and trust that if I do that good things will happen.
Q: You had a new offensive coordinator last year, and now you get it again. How do you feel it went getting on the same page with Coach DeFilippo throughout the spring?
A: I was pleasantly surprised with the rapport. There was a fair amount of carryover from what I've done in the past, so that was a good first step. Whenever I did suggest something he's just been a great listener, he's been a great communicator, and I love his passion for the game. I feel like although we've never crossed paths in the past, we do have similar backgrounds, and a lot of times we're coming from a similar perspective. I've really enjoyed working with him and I can't wait to build reps and build experience with him, such that we have a rapport and a dynamic and a reputation around the league.
Q: When you're on your own during July, how do you maintain that level of continuity?
A: I think the more important level of communication will be between me and the coaches, talking about some philosophy things and how I want plays to be designed. I'll have my iPad with me as I go home, and I'll spend time every day going back. It's a bit like drinking through a firehose right now, I need to use the five or six weeks of the summer to go back. All the stuff I didn't catch, go back through and see that I had starred this, I had check-marked this as something to go back to when we had time rather than take time when we were so busy. I'm going to go back, I'll make a list, probably get on the phone with Coach DeFilippo or give Coach Stefanski and email and just go through it all to get each question answered over the summer.
Q: Are you going to try to get together with any receivers between minicamp and training camp?
A: Nothing is planned as of right now. As I go through things, if we feel that's necessary we can certainly do that, but going back to my point that we do have six weeks from when we show up in July until the start of the season. That is a lot of time, and so we also want to pace ourselves and not treat July 1st like its September 10th. We're going to pace ourselves, so probably not would be the answer.
Q: Nobody skipped minicamp on this team. Is that because guys just enjoy being here and there is a positive team dynamic?
A: When I've said it's a good locker room and great teammates, one example of that would be that people here just want to come and work and win. There's not a lot of other motives or other reasons to be out there. When I talked to Eric Kendricks and congratulated him on signing his extension, he said, "Kirk, really, I decided to sign and I wanted to be here because it's all about winning here. There's no other agendas. Let's just win football games." He looked at me and said, "you'll see, you'll see when we get there in the season and you'll know." It's great to hear that from a team leader like that, and minicamp reflects that. I felt that quite a bit day in and day out, and it's why they've won in the past. Hopefully it gives us a great chance to win in the future.
Q: With Father's Day approaching, what is the best piece of advice your dad has given to you?
A: He encouraged me with a verse from the bible. Proverbs three, verses five through six: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your steps." I've really built my life on that, and it's proven true so many times throughout my walk. He also said, "Kirk, when you make good decisions good things happen, and when you make bad decisions bad things happen. That applies on the football field, that applies off the football field." His point was that there are consequences in life, and you've got to factor that in when you make decisions. Whether that was choosing to come to Minnesota or choosing to throw and interception in the red zone, I got to live with those decisions. I've learned that from a young age, and that law has proven true from when I was young to now.